Close-up portrait of Friderika Klein reading a letter.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 75350
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Hungary -- Family/Friends/Portraits
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Anna Osztreicher
Close-up portrait of Friderika Klein reading a letter.
- Anna Osztreicher is the daughter of Salamon Lebovics (later Sandor Lantos) and Friderika Klein (later Acsadi). Salamon was born in Mukachevo on May 14, 1914 and moved to Budapest in 1939. Friderika was born in Nyiracsad, in northern Hungary on March 17, 1915 to Cecilia and Lajos Klein, a master shoe maker. She was the youngest of five children. She had three sisters Ilonka, Mariska and Rozsa and a brother Sandor. Sandor Klein was admitted to the Muszaki Egyetem in Budapest (Technical University) during the Numerus Clausus era as an engineering student. In 1937 Friderika followed him to the city and worked as a seamstress in several high-end salons. She met Salamon Lebovics in the Tailors' Union in 1939, and they married on May 1, 1940. Less than a year later, the Hungarians conscripted Salamon for forced labor and sent him to the Ukraine. During a fierce battle with the Russian Partisans, the Partisans of Brijansk Forest captured 500 Jews including Salamon, and after one week of interrogation in which Salamon convinced them he was on their side, they took them in. In 1942 the Red Cross notified Friderika that her husband had disappeared. Friderika sensed that he was able to get to the Russian side. Salamon spent the next two and half years with the partisans making and repairing clothes for the camp. When he ran out of yarn and needles, he was compelled to join the reconnaissance unit. Only 8 of the 500 Hungarian Jewish partisans survived. Towards the end of the war, Salamon's group joined the Red Army and helped liberate Poland and Hungary. There he learned first-hand from the Polish peasants about what happened to most Hungarian and Carpathian Jews. After the war, he was awarded the Hungarian Freedom Medal.
In the summer of 1944 Friderika had to move to a Starred House, and in the fall she was forced to the Budapest Jewish Ghetto from where she escaped. She found shelter in Kerepesi Cemetery and spent two nights among the tombstones. When she pleaded for help, her colleagues gave information how to obtain a false identification paper for her and found her a place to stay with Erzsebet Belovari who was a concierge of a large apartment building near the Danube. The false identification allowed her to move around but always with the fear of discovery. Then Erzsebet obtained the identification papers of a dead relative named Piroska. With her new papers, Friderika with no fear walked up to the Vatican's Embassy to obtain Protective Letters from the Papal Nuncio for a friend and her brother. She was able to pass by a human wall of Arrow Cross guards and respond to the question: are you a Jew? By this time her brother Sandor was working in the Jewish Hospital as an engineer. Friderika also spent a short time in Sarmellek with Erzsebet Belovari's relatives pretending to be Piroska, whom they had never met. She had to learn quickly how to milk cows and pray in church. Unlike in the cities, she did not notice any antisemitism, but tried her utmost not to give away her background. After her return to Budapest, Friderika lived with Erzsebet Belovari, who was at this time nine months pregnant. The Arrow Cross frequently visited Erzsebet to ask if any of the tenants were hiding Jews. Friderika hid under the bed whenever there was a knock on the door. From the window they saw many Jewish captives going down the street with their hands held up, followed by gunshots. These victims caught randomly on the streets were all shot into the Danube. During the Allied bombings, Friderika told Erzsebet to go down to the shelter to avoid injury, but she refused to leave her alone. Friderika decided to risk being discovered and finally persuaded Erzsebet to go down to the basement shelter mainly for the protection of her unborn.
In January 1945 Solomon returned to Budapest as a soldier and translator with the Red Army. He found his wife in the shelter very weak and emaciated but also elated to see him again. He suspected that she was the only one close to him who survived. After liberation, Friderika immediately went to the Jewish hospital to find her brother. Seeing a mountain of bodies stacked up in front of the hospital, she fainted, fearing that her brother was among the dead. However, she found him albeit in deplorable emaciated condition recovering from wounds sustained by an Arrow Cross beating. Friderika and Salamon received an apartment right away from the new mayor of Budapest and took in Sandor for a year and nursed him back to good health. Soon after, Ilonka returned from Auschwitz and found her siblings in the apartment. Their neighbors witnessed the reunion but showed no sympathy upon realizing the family is Jewish. Friderika immediately found out from Ilonka that there was no one else survived. Their mother Cecilia was immediately sent to the crematorium, and Mariska was killed soon afterwards. Rozsa worked with Ilonka in an ammunition factory. Rozsa had helped other prisoners and tended their wounds, but was sent to the gas chambers once she became too emaciated.
Ilonka married a fellow survivor Abraham Roth, also a shoemaker. He brought back the news about the fate of her father Lajos Klein who collapsed on the cattle car en route to Auschwitz and was thrown off into the fields where he died. Most of Friderika's extended family perished during the Holocaust. Salamon's mother and three brothers with their spouses and children also died in the death camps.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Anna Osztreicher
Record last modified: 2015-04-07 00:00:00
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